Niobium is a rare element; its unique properties have transformed the world of engineering and steel manufacturing offering a solution to some of the most complex technological challenges of the last century.
As an alloying agent, niobium (in the form of ferroniobium) brings unique properties to high strength steel alloys, such as increased formability, corrosion resistance and strength with extreme high or low temperatures.
Around 90% of total global niobium consumption is in the production of high strength steels which are used in the manufacture of automobiles, ships and high pressure pipelines, as well as in the petroleum, aerospace and construction industries. Niobium is also used in a number of other non-steel based applications, including aircraft turbines, land-based power generation turbines, optical lenses, medical imaging devices and chemical catalysts.
- The addition of niobium to steel increases both the alloy’s strength and toughness, allowing cars to be lighter, without compromising safety performance. Adding only 300g of niobium to the steel used in the manufacture of a typical mid-size car reduces its weight by over 200 kg. The result? Lower fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions.
- Niobium’s superconducting properties make it ideal for use in alloying with tin and titanium to produce superconducting magnets for MRI equipment, mass spectrometers and other scientific applications.
- Niobium oxide compounds are added to glass to increase the refractive index, which allows corrective glasses to be made with thinner lenses.